Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Perfect Solo Itinerary for 24 Hours in Las Vegas

I found myself with a few days off from work and cash to spend. Where to go for a quick, fun vacation? Las Vegas, baby! One problem, though. No one else was available to travel with me on this last minute trip.

I traveled solo for years but admit to being a bit intimidated at the thought of visiting "Sin City" by myself. My impressions of typical Las Vegas visitors are couples on a romantic getaway, large groups of guys and gals descending on the city for pre-wedding debauchery, and silver-haired seniors ambling from casino to casino. None of these profiles screamed awesome vacation for a solo female traveler. However, I like a challenge and was determined to get out of town.


I found a cheap non-stop flight from Washington D.C. to Las Vegas on Frontier Airlines. This was my first time flying with them. Frontier is a budget airline, so amenities like checking bags, seat choice, and in-flight meals cost extra. I packed light and brought snacks on board to save some coin. I was thrilled to be assigned a window seat at check-in since I did not pay extra to choose my seat. The flight was comfortable, and I slept for a large part of it. The plane touched down just after midnight Pacific time at McCarran International Airport.

I found the shuttle that runs from the airport to the hotels. It costs between $7 and $10 one-way depending on who you ask and whether your hotel is on the Strip or Downtown. The shuttle is cheaper than a cab or Uber, but it can take more time because it stops at multiple hotels to drop passengers. Do not use it if you are in a rush or out of patience.


I booked a room at the Luxor. It is the black pyramid that you have probably seen in pictures of the Las Vegas skyline. The room was on the fifth floor right above the Backstage Deli, one of the hotel's 24-hour restaurants. I was concerned that it would be noisy since the hallway is open to the restaurant and casino below, but I did not hear anything inside the room. The room itself was a good size with plenty of drawers and a fairly large armoire. After unpacking, I wasn't tired so I decided to hit the casino.


The Luxor like every hotel, big and small, has a large and bright casino in its lobby. I am not much of a gambler, but you know what they say, when in Las Vegas…. I fed a few dollars into a slot machine and lost it all in minutes. In search of better luck, I decided to walk to the casino at Mandalay Bay. 

My luck at Mandalay Bay was the same so I didn't stay long. On the way back, I walked through the mezzanine of the Luxor which is the main theater and exhibit space. The featured shows included the enduring Blue Man Group, ageless Carrot Top, and a striptease show called Fantasy. There were two exhibits: Titanic and Bodies. I would have seen Bodies but there was not enough time in my 24-hour itinerary. FYI-Criss Angel Mindfreak also calls the Luxor home.

The Buffet at Wynn

My goal for this trip was to accomplish two classically Las Vegas activities, see a show and eat at a buffet. I spent time researching buffets because I am a vegetarian and wanted to avoid the mostly meat-and-potato smorgasbords. Enter The Buffet at Wynn, which not only has many vegetarian and vegan options but is one of the best buffets in Las Vegas.

I slept late and planned to arrive at Wynn for an early lunch at the buffet. The best way to travel up and down the Strip is the Las Vegas public bus, affectionately called the Deuce. Two bus routes, the Strip and SDX, run almost exclusively on the Strip. The bus may not sound like an attractive way to travel in Vegas, but it's a great deal. A 24-hour pass costs $8. You can use it as much as you want and it will take you from Mandalay Bay at the south end of the Strip all the way to the Fremont Street Experience on the north end.

Like the Luxor, the Wynn is a huge property and you have to walk through the casino to get to the buffet. I was starting to feel like I wouldn't find it, and then I recognized the fantastical flower sculptures from the research I had done. The decor reminded me of Alice in Wonderland and felt like an appropriate setting for a Las Vegas buffet.

I read that the wait to enter The Buffet at Wynn can grow long, but I was seated immediately. The staff was attentive and friendly. I bought the Endless Pour package. It allows for unlimited glasses of select adult beverages. My waitress never let my glass fall below half full before asking if I would like another. I was a little nervous about going solo to a buffet, but after the second mimosa, I felt more relaxed. Never underestimate the power of liquid courage. 

The food was fresh and plentiful. Some highlights that I tried: Watermelon and Feta Salad, Tomato Bisque, Polenta with Grilled Tomato, Red Kale and Butternut Squash Salad, and Roasted Tri-color Cauliflower Salad. This is not a complete list! There were plenty of steak and chicken options. The pork dumplings looked incredibly tempting for this vegetarian. By far the highlight was the dessert station with its beautiful spread of sweet delights. My favorite was the Mini Crème Brûlée. I ate three of those. I also enjoyed the Mango Tapioca Pudding. It was delicious and vegan.

After about 90 minutes, it was time to push back from the table. This was my first buffet in Las Vegas so I cannot compare it to the others, but the Buffet at Wynn set the bar high.

Walking the Strip

After a heavy meal, it was time to indulge in one of my favorite activities, simply walking the Strip. Las Vegas reminds me of New York because walking around can supply enough entertainment for the afternoon. I love looking at the hotels, restaurants, and shops along the way. I enjoy noticing what has changed, and what has remained the same. I found Hell's Kitchen restaurant, named after the popular TV show hosted by Gordon Ramsay. The last thing I wanted after the buffet was to eat, but I took some pictures outside. The fountains at the Bellagio were also on my list of things to see. The first time I visited Las Vegas I saw the famous show at night. I can say that it is just as spectacular during the day.

My last stop before returning to my room for a well-earned nap was the Tix4Tonite booth. They sell discounted tickets for Las Vegas shows. I did not have a set idea of what show to see. The lady at the counter gave me some suggestions, and I settled on Mat Franco's show at the LINQ.

Las Vegas at Night

After a power nap, I was back on the Deuce headed towards the LINQ. I did not know anything about Mat Franco except that he was a magician. I am not a big fan of magic, but Franco won me over. As he describes it, his show is more of a story than a magic show. He weaved his personal story — how he began practicing magic as a child, how his family supported him, and ultimately how he won the ninth season of America's Got Talent — with breathtaking illusions. Franco was funny, charming, and entertaining. My favorite trick was when Franco was performing card tricks on stage while covered with a sheet. All of a sudden the sheet dropped, and he appeared at the back of the theater. That was pretty cool, even to a doubter like me.

After the show, I was finally hungry again. I took the Deuce downtown in search of some cheap eats. Downtown Las Vegas is the original gambling and entertainment hub of the city. It is older and not as glitzy as the Strip. In my opinion, it is a lot of fun and worth the trip. There are still plenty of casinos in this area, perhaps most famously, the Golden Nugget. The main downtown attraction is the Fremont Street Experience. It is five blocks of lights, booming sound, and non-stop entertainment in the evening. If you like street performers, the Fremont Street Experience is definitely for you. I saw dancers, rap battlers, contortionist, showgirls, and angry clowns as I strolled under the canopy.

Downtown Las Vegas is also a good place to find inexpensive meals. Unlike the Strip, you can still find massive steak dinners and buffets for under $10. When I was on the airport shuttle, I heard a group of discussing how they enjoyed the food at the Four Queens. I decided to try it out. I was seated promptly at a booth that overlooked the bustling casino below. I ordered the Simply Jazz combo which included two eggs, hash browns, and toast. It was not a gourmet meal, but it really hit the spot and for $7.49, the price was right. Full and exhausted, I took the Deuce back to the Luxor so I could catch a few hours of sleep before flying back to D.C.

Las Vegas is one of my favorite cities to visit because I can craft the vacation I want. It can be glamorous and expensive or low-key and budget-friendly, like this trip. I found out on this trip that it works well as a solo destination. Despite the crowds, I felt safe, even late into the evening. My only complaint was that it was too short. I did not get to see or do everything I wanted, but 24 hours in Las Vegas is better than nothing.

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